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Zoe Malen/Nevada Sagebrush

Cast of “Assassins” holds prop guns in the final number

As the curtains lifted on Friday, Feb. 16, the stage was set for a spectacle featuring America’s most infamous assassins as the main characters. Clad in a patriotic coat of red, white and blue, this show promised a wild ride filled with dance, gunplay, catchy tunes and a gathering of elderly white gentlemen presidents. 

However, the University of Nevada, Reno Theater and Dance production of “Assassins” didn’t just miss the mark—it misfired. Directed by Deborah Leamy, the play promised presidential assassination stories served with a side of dark humor, but it felt more like a dull political debate.

Nevertheless, amid the mishaps, there were a couple of shining stars. Georgia McKnight and Peyton Tuley effortlessly brought Squeaky Fromme and Sara Jane Moore, respectively to life; both igniting the stage with their electric chemistry and captivating portrayal. Similarly, Coy Romo’s casting as the Balladeer was a stroke of brilliance, adding depth and emotion to the narrative. On the other hand, Luis Galvez’s performance, though solid, fell somewhat flat due to the predictable nature of his grumpy character typecasting. 

Zoe Malen/Nevada Sagebrush

Now, let’s chat about the wardrobe: it was as vibrant as a rainbow on a sunny day. Each assassin sported a pop of red that added a delightful splash of color to the stage. Just imagine John Wilkes Booth commanding attention in his majestic red coat, exuding confidence and charisma as if he’s the star of his own show. 

And then there’s Lee Harvey Oswald, rocking red socks that’s more than just a fashion statement—it’s a symbol of his inner turmoil, adding depth to his character in a visually striking way. In short, the wardrobe choices were bold, eye-catching and perfectly complemented the theatrical flair of the production.

The musical number “How I Saved Roosevelt” proved to be a dizzying spectacle, but not necessarily in a good way. While the energy was high and the performers gave it their all, the overall singing and chaotic running around the stage created an eye sore rather than a captivating moment. 

Zoe Malen/Nevada Sagebrush

The frenetic pace and lack of cohesion left the audience seeming disoriented, struggling to keep up with the whirlwind of activity unfolding before them. Despite the best efforts of the cast, this particular musical number fell short of delivering the intended impact, leaving much to be desired in terms of clarity and execution.

And let’s talk about the bold choice of using a meme as the backdrop during the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt scene in “Assassins” at UNR. It’s like they thought, “Hey, why not add a little modern flair to this historical moment?” But instead of a clever nod to internet culture, it felt more like someone accidentally left their browser window open on the projector.

A lot of the show felt overdone, or just missing the mark. Nothing truly felt just right. And a certain amount of this has to be held up to the writing of the play and not just the performance. But I fear, even if we had a stellar performance, the play still would’ve fallen flat. 

So, what’s the takeaway? Maybe next time, they should aim for a bit more punch and a lot less political posturing. After all, if you’re going to tackle a topic as dark as presidential assassinations, you might as well go all-in and make it a killer performance.

Emily Hess can be reached via email at or on Twitter via @emilyghess03


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